More than two years after a major oil spill ravaged more than 80 miles of the Yellowstone River in Montana, Montana and federal officials continue to seek damages against Exxon, the owner of the pipeline that ruptured and caused the spill. Although the oil company has taken steps to pay for its part in the incident, regulators say that they actually made the problem worse in many ways by removing woodpiles that are integral to local wildlife. According to recent reports, damage to this especially scenic stretch of the river is ongoing, and the area continues to feel the ramifications of the spill. The location of the Silvertip pipeline spill, which occurred below the Yellowstone River near the city of Laurel, is just one of more than 2,800 such spots in the country. In July 2011, a major break occurred in the pipeline, which is more than 20 years old. Instead of immediately acting, controllers down in Houston took a full 46 minutes to ensure that crude oil was no longer pumping out of the pipe and into the river. Instead, controllers only partially shut down the 12" pipeline. As a result, more than 63,000 gallons of crude oil were released, and they ultimately affected more than 80 miles of river and riverbank. The incident was thoroughly investigated shortly after it happened. It was determined that there would have been two-thirds less damage if controllers had acted quickly and decisively. Had they done so, cleanup efforts would probably have been much more effective as well. It is unlikely that the environment would continue to be so severely affected today if controllers had shut down the pipeline immediately. This marks the first time that Exxon has been named as directly contributing to the severity of a spill. Federal regulations require pipelines to be no more than four feet below rivers and other waterways. This rule is in place to ensure that periodic inspections can be performed easily. The section of the Silvertip pipeline that ruptured under the Yellowstone River incident was more than six feet below ground. Furthermore, officials from the city of Laurel had already warned pipeline officials that the riverbank in the area had been eroding significantly. This erosion would have put additional strain on the pipeline and is probably to blame for burying it even more. In the aftermath of the incident, Exxon was ordered to pay for long-term environmental studies. The company was also ordered to pay for lost recreational opportunities that the area would suffer. Such lost opportunities would negatively affect the region's ability to generate revenue because the Yellowstone River is one of the biggest draws in the area. Exxon was slapped with $3.4 million in fines for water pollution and safety violations, and the company says that is has spent more than $134 million so far in its efforts to remedy the situation. However, now that two years have passed, it appears that Exxon has not done enough. The more than 1,000 employees who were sent to clean the riverbank by the company removed dozens of woodpiles that were integral parts of the local habitat. That's just one example of how Exxon's response has been deemed less than optimal. It highlights a common problem concerning large corporations and safety. Chemical plant accidents and similar incidents often occur because companies are unwilling to invest what is needed to keep them from happening. If you have been injured in a chemical plant accident or similar incident, it's crucial to retain a talented industrial accident attorney. You cannot expect the responsible parties to respect your rights or to properly compensate you. The first step in protecting your rights is hiring an experienced refinery accident lawyer, so make sure to do so.